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What Sales Leaders Can Learn From Urban Meyer’s Coaching Philosophy on Why Teams Struggle

Meyer: Never Make Excuses — look under the hood for these three things

Urban Meyer gave a brilliant two-minute coaching class during a segment on FOX while discussing several of the elite college football programs that are struggling in 2020.

This video clip went viral and drew praise from seemingly everyone including me.

Essentially Meyer said: “Not Performing? Never Make Excuses — Look Under the Hood”

“So many of us are excuse makers. That’s part of who we are, and it shouldn’t be that way. When you see a team struggle, the first thing the fans and the media blame are the players, or they blame the coaches…. Now maybe they’re not coaching well, or maybe the players are not playing well, but that’s why I always say ‘lift under the hood.’

When things aren’t going as they should, when teams aren’t performing — instead of making excuses and blaming the players — OR the coaches — look under the hood and diagnose the real issue.

Never make excuses. When I was a coach, I would never let one of my coaches say ‘he’s a bad player.’ I’d warn them, ‘say that again and you’ll probably have to leave,’ because you’re making excuses. Dig deep and find out why.” — Urban Meyer

I couldn’t help hear this and relate it to us as we coach our own sales teams. When things aren’t going as they should, when teams aren’t performing — instead of making excuses, we need to look under the hood and diagnose the real issues.

Meyer said that every time he had a team struggle it always came down to three categories.


We’ll discuss each below — and see how they relate to roles as sales leaders in SaaS.

#1. Trust Issues.

Meyer claims there’s trust issues when performance is not up to par. Trust issues are threefold:

  1. Players don’t trust the coach. In sales — what are we doing as leaders to earn (or lose) trust with our players? Do we have a crummy game plan (sales process and structure)? Are we saying we will dive in and help but never do? Are we playing favorites outside of performance? Are we constantly moving the goal posts (quotas and commissions?) Are we putting the right people in the right positions to win? Are we as coaches willing to jump in alongside our reps in calls, negotiations and the day to day tactics? Will we go to bat and fight internally for our team?

This is a good reminder to constantly be earning trust with your team

2. Coach doesn’t trust the players.

34% of sales leaders say they have little to no formal training for new hires (

This comes down to a few things in my opinion. teaching, training, tools. What are we doing as a coach to teach and train our team on a consistent basis? Are we dedicating time for specific coaching on topics our team needs help with? What are those teaching sessions like?Do we have a formal training program and process? Have we as leaders give our team all necessary tools to be successful or are we having them wing it?

3. Players don’t trust each other.

Does this matter as part of a sales team?

Trusting other players also extends to those outside your direct team. This includes SDRs, Sales Engineers and Customer Success and Sales Ops all working towards one goal. As the sales leader — what are we doing to ensure everyone trusts each other no matter WHAT position they may be in?

#2. Dysfunctional Work Environment.

Coach Meyer claims this is when expectations are very high — but we don’t work hard. This leads to frustration, anger, disappointment. Work ethic must exceed or equal the expectations.

For us: Does our work ethic match our expectations?

If expectations (quota) is high and activity and work ethic aren’t matching up — that’s a problem a sales leader should be able to spot and fix.

Any sales leader should be able to work backwards from their average deals size and closing percentage to determine:

Closed deals = % of the number of proposals sent -> % of demos held -> # of deals created -> # of calls logged -> # of leads qualified successfully.

If that activity doesn’t equate to the expectations, you know what you need to work on.

#3. You Have a Selfish Team.

“Football is an unselfish sport. You got to do the nasty. As a Running Back I need to protect my Quarterback. You don’t always get to carry the ball.”

What does this mean for us in sales?

I loved Meyer’s concept of team players need to “Do the nasty”.

Are we disciplined enough to do things we may not enjoy doing — but impact our performance and also the team.

Some examples may be cold calls, personalizing emails instead of spamming and blasting, thorough discovery and qualification, asking the hard questions, customer research when its not convenient or easy, relentless followup that finally engages a buyer.

But being an unselfish sales team member means more than the examples above. I think its doing your part to help those around you to benefit the team.

For example:

  • Providing an agenda or holding a prep call with your technical counterpart prior to a demo so everyone is on the same page
  • Ensuring the CRM is updated so that everyone on the team (SDR, Sales Engineer, Manager) knows exactly where the pain points, value and solutions stand and what needs to happen to move things forward.
  • Share knowledge. I’ve been part of some amazing sales teams. Sales teams where each rep, responsible for their own territory was more than willing to share, mentor, and help those around them. That was addicting for all of us and in turn, we were one of the highest performing teams in the company!

Great stuff from a future Hall of Fame coach on what makes teams successful. What can sales leaders/coaches do to impact a winning culture?

Stop making excuses and take a look under the hood. Look for 3 main culprits: Trust Issues, Dysfunctional Work Environment, and Selfish Tendencies.

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